Migrants disembark from the Mare Jonio ship at the dock on the Italian island of Lampedusa, Italy, May 10, 2019 | ANSA/Elio Desiderio
Migrants disembark from the Mare Jonio ship at the dock on the Italian island of Lampedusa, Italy, May 10, 2019 | ANSA/Elio Desiderio

After being impounded in Sicily's Licata port on September 3, the Court of Palermo on Tuesday ordered the release of the migrant rescue vessel Mare Jonio. The ship is run by the NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans, which has said that it will soon return to sea to save the lives of more migrants.

The Court of Palermo on Tuesday, February 4 ordered the release of the migrant rescue vessel Mare Jonio, announced the NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans. The NGO, which operates the ship, said that it was "finally free." Alessandra Sciurba, president of Mediterranea Saving Humans stated: "The decision of a judge in Palermo's civil court has upheld the law. Mare Jonio is once again free after five months of illegal confiscation." 

'A return to sea soon' 

"The charges against Commander Marrone and Mission Chief Casarini were already dismissed, and so this is another fundamental step towards the repeal of the Salvini Decrees," Sciurba continued in a statement, adding that: "This once again reaffirms that our compass has always been the law and human rights." 

"European governments, led by Italy, betrayed and dehumanized these refugees in the middle of the Mediterranean. This was political propaganda, played out on the bodies of thousands of men, women, and children." The ''ship is free, and now we want to go back to sea as soon as possible, to save [those fleeing war] from drowning or capture by the Libyan militias," she noted. 

The NGO announced that it was launching a fundraising campaign to enable the ship to resume its search and rescue operations.

Italian left and Salvini critics celebrate decision 

The news that the Mare Jonio had been released led to celebrating among the left in Italy as well as critics of the "closed ports" policy backed by former minister Matteo Salvini. ''The release of the Mare Jonio vessel is wonderful news. Finally an end has been put to an absurd, unjust period that stopped (NGO) Mediterranea from carrying out the duty that it was created for: saving human lives in danger," said Nicola Fratoianni from the Sinistra Italiana-LEU party. 

"After the request for the shelving of the case against Luca Casarini and Captain Marrone by the Agrigento prosecutor's office," the parliamentarian added, "this ruling by Palermo's civil court is another blow to the 'security decrees' and the war against NGOs" working to save migrant lives. 

The release of the ship was "another defeat for Salvini and his security decrees. Finally Mare Jonio can resume carrying out its duty, that of saving human lives. We must do ours by abrogating those shameful laws," Democratic Party (PD) MP Matteo Orfini wrote on Facebook.
 

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